PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte finally nailed down the elusive peace talks with the communist rebels by ordering the arrest of its self-exiled leaders once they step into Philippine soil from Norway.
“Kayong mga komunista, you are just wasting your time. You cannot prevail over the government of the Republic of the Philippines; neither can you find sanctuary under a communist rule. Huwag na tayong magbolahan, yan ang mangyayari sainyo…I am warning the leaders whom I have released and who were talking to the representatives of my government…do not attempt to come home. I will arrest all of you and throw you to the slammer,” President Duterte warned as he aired his disgust against the communist rebels during the 119th anniversary of the Philippine Navy in Sasa wharf in Davao City on Wednesday (May 31).
President Duterte, in his trademark sarcasm, mockingly said that his consolation in the release of communist rebels before the peace talks began last year was that all of those released were old and sick and the physically-abled ones were left in prison. He added that the old leaders can die in prison and if the communist rebels decide to join forces with the terrorists they could do so.
At hindsight, President Duterte may be a genius in handling the communist rebels since he won as the dark horse in the presidential elections last year. He initially showed and declared he was a socialist on the middle-left of the political spectrum which drew the communist rebels and national democratic organizations to his side. He appointed to the Cabinet those who were endorsed by the Communist Party of the Philippines and released several communist rebels who were behind bars. Because of this, he ascended to power without the left objecting and protesting unlike the previous administration. Essentially, the communist rebels and its allied organizations were disarmed and made inutile in the face of controversial issues like the alleged human rights violations in the war against drugs and the decision to bury the remains of the Ferdinand Marcos Sr. at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
But as the peace talks with the communist rebels progressed, President Duterte started courting the military, adopting their position in the peace talks and appointing retired generals to the Cabinet.
President Duterte seemed to know the non-negotiable positions of the communist rebels on the issues which are basic to their existence like the collection of the so-called revolutionary tax and offensives against the state forces doing counterinsurgency operation. So, he demanded that these issues must be resolved and included as requirement to reach a peace accord. With his display of openness to the peace talks in the beginning, the communist rebels were wittingly placed on the defensive side.
With President Duterte declaring Martial Law in Mindanao after the terrorist group Maute launched armed invasion of Marawi City last week, the communist rebels reacted with a statement that they will launch offensive against government forces after the Department of National Defense issued a statement imputing that the martial law declaration is also aimed at containing the armed struggle of the communist rebels. He then called off the fifth round of peace talks with the communist rebels that should have started last May 27.
The end of the peace talks with the communist rebels is definitely not the end of the longest communist insurgency in the world. But the major casualty here is the quest for peace. Bring in the other forces fighting against the government like the Moro National Liberation Front, Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the terrorist groups---Abu Sayyaf and Maute Group -- and peace will remain to be elusive across the Philippine archipelago far beyond our lifetime.